|A new population of Nationally Scarce, Wood-crickets,
has been found at the Woodland Education Centre in Offwell, East Devon, England.
Wood-crickets are small dark brown crickets. They do not have any hind wings
at all and the forewings are reduced. In the male, the forewings cover about half of the
abdomen. The female (pictured above) has wings which are just short lateral lobes. Females
also have a long ovipositor (this is the long spear-like structure at the back which looks
like a sting) which is used for egg-laying.
Wood-crickets like warm sunny clearings in broadleaf woodland, or
woodland edges where there are deep leaf litter layers. They are often found under oaks,
Holly and Bracken. They feed on decaying leaf litter and possibly the associated fungi.
This species is classified as Nationally Scarce. It is apparently
found in very few places in Britain and has three main centres of distribution. These
include Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and South Devon. The largest population of
Wood-crickets is found in the New Forest in Hampshire. In Devon, It is found near
Chudleigh, as well as around Harpford, near Sidmouth.
Wood-crickets have also now been found on the regenerating Heathland Project area at the Woodland Education Centre in
Offwell, in East Devon. The Centre is situated approximately 7 miles Northeast of Harpford
as the crow flies.
||The Wood-crickets occur
mainly at the lower end of strips 7, 8 and 9 on the Centre's regenerating heathland.
There are several old Beech trees within this area, as well as some small
Holly and, Hazel trees. There are also quite extensive stands of Bracken at the bottom of
section 8. The area is sunny and open and is ideal habitat for Wood-crickets.
This Wood-cricket population is numerous and has been established on
the heathland area for several years. It is undoubtedly a new population. The heathland
area at the Centre was originally covered in a failed conifer crop with a dense
Rhododendron understory. This type of habitat would have been totally unsuited to the
Wood-crickets. The area was cleared in 1993 and has been managed ever since with the aim
of restoring a natural heathland habitat to the area. The new Wood-cricket population was
first recorded here in 2001.
Wood-crickets belong to the same insect group as grasshoppers
(Orthoptera). Characteristics of the Orthoptera include straight-veined, leathery-
textured forewings, which protect the more delicate, membranous fan-like hindwings. They
all have biting mouthparts and often, enlarged hind legs which allow them to jump
Crickets (Family Gryllidae) have long thread-like antennae. The last
portion of each leg, known as the tarsus, consist of 3 segments. Wood-crickets are one of
only two native species of crickets in Britain, although there is a total of 6 species
altogether. Four of these are species which have been introduced from elsewhere.
Although Wood-crickets apparently have such a limited distribution,
the places where they do occur contain large populations in relatively safe habitats.
Their continued existence in Britain does not therefore appear to be a matter for concern.